Top Ten Senior Honored to Receive $10,000 Grant
SANDY HICKS | May 02, 2012 | UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
Kimberlin Schnittker is no stranger to success. Named a Top Ten Senior for 2012 by the UTEP Alumni Association for her academic success and community involvement, she also recently received a Copper Club Education Fund $10,000 Grant from Copper Club Inc., a charitable organization that supports educational programs associated with the copper industry.
The grant is given to assist exceptional students preparing for careers in fields related to maintenance and expansion of the copper industry, and is awarded based on academic excellence and need of financial assistance. Schnittker is the first UTEP student to receive the grant in its history.
She is humble about her latest accolade.
"I am so honored they would choose me and so grateful for the Copper Club's generosity," she said.
Schnittker is a dual major set to receive her Bachelor of Science in metallurgical and materials engineering in May and her Bachelor of Science in environmental science in December. She is number four in a proud family line of Miner graduates, with three siblings having come before her to pave the way – and a younger brother coming behind her.
She was born in El Paso and never considered a post-secondary education anywhere else but UTEP. Her parents encouraged the pursuit of excellence in all five of their children, and Schnittker grew up with the family motto setting the bar in all she pursued: "Practice makes the master."
In addition to being a grant recipient and Top Ten senior, Schnittker has been on the Dean's List five semesters, completed a research internship in the NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics Undergraduate Research Program at the University of Minnesota, and has been recipient of other scholarships.
She has been highly involved on campus as well – as a member, president, and now an adviser for the UTEP Rotaract Club, a university branch of Rotary International. She is also an active member of The Minerals, Metals and Material Society; Mexican American Engineers and Scientists; Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society; the American Foundry Society; the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS); Alpha Sigma Mu; and the UTEP Geology Club, and a volunteer for UTEP's Project MOVE.
Schnittker had never considered a degree in materials engineering until a friend studying the same discipline invited her to a research lab at UTEP. She was hooked from the start.
"Kimberlin's level of involvement as an undergraduate research assistant in the metallurgical/materials and geology research programs on campus is particularly noteworthy," said Stephen W. Stafford, Ph.D., Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Professor in the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering. "She is especially deserving of this prestigious recognition."
S.K. Varma, Ph.D., professor of metallurgy and materials engineering, couldn't agree more.
"As my undergraduate research assistant under a contract from the Office of Naval Research, Kim was outstanding in learning new experimental techniques," Varma said. "It was amazing to see her working on very advanced equipment like the electron microscope with only a short period of training – and her quest for knowledge helped her apply theory into practice. Kim is certainly one of the most outstanding students of our department."
Schnittker said her older siblings have played a part in her academic and campus life success. Sister Karina ('10) has been a constant source of advice and support, while sister Klaudia ('07) helped instill in Schnittker a love of community service by introducing her to the Rotoract Club while she was still in high school. Big brother Kristian ('07) was the strong but silent type, helping Schnittker navigate the waters of financial aid and college life.
"I always knew my siblings were there for me – I was never alone in this," she said. She is determined to do for younger brother, Kevin, what her older sisters and brother did for her – be that familial framework of guidance and encouragement.
Upon graduating in May, Schnittker will head to Cleveland to complete a summer internship at the NASA Glen Research Center, then will return for the final semester of her second bachelor's program in environmental science. She is exploring a variety of opportunities as a post-grad.
"I am weighing different options, one of which is pursuing a double master's in materials science and mechanical engineering," Schnittker said. "That's what makes this [Copper Club] grant so amazing – it will do for me what grants are supposed to do – relieve some of the financial burden from working students like myself."
The secret of Schnittker's success is really no secret at all – she did it through the love and support of her family, the focused mentoring and encouragement of faculty and peers, her own determined efforts and academic work ethic, and well-deserved help like the Copper Club grant.
"An award like this boosts my confidence so much," Schnittker said. "It helps me to believe I can do great things — to believe I can succeed."